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EMPLOYMENT

Airbus-maker EADS set to cut 1,000 French jobs

Some 1,000 jobs are set to be lost in France, after European aerospace giant and the maker of Airbus aircraft, EADS announced on Monday that it would be cutting some 5,800 European posts from its defence and space division.

Airbus-maker EADS set to cut 1,000 French jobs
An Airbus A350, made by aerospace giant EADS, which on Monday announced the loss of 1,000 French jobs. File Photo: Eric Cabanis/AFP

The 1,000 layoffs, part of a major restructuring in the face of falling orders, will take place over the next three years, French union Force Ouvrière said in a statement.

The job cuts will also affect the group's work force in Germany, France, Spain and Britain, the company said in a statement.

The news came after a meeting of its European works council with chief executive Tom Enders, whose bold plan to merge the conglomerate with Britain's defence group BAE Systems was torpedoed last year with a surprise veto by Germany.

"We need to improve our competitiveness in defence and space – and we need to do it now," Enders said, according to the statement.

"With our traditional markets down, we urgently need to improve access to international customers, to growth markets. For that to work, we need to cut costs, eliminate product and resource overlaps, create synergies in our operations and product portfolio and better focus our Research and Development efforts."

He added: "That's what the restructuring and integration plan for our defence and space business is all about."

An industry source said about 2,600 of the jobs cuts would hit Germany, around 1,700 come in France, with some 700 in Britain and another 600 in Spain

Anticipating fierce resistance from labour representatives, the company said it would do what it could to cushion the impact of the job cuts, due to be completed by the end of 2016.

Furloughed employees will be offered redeployment in 1,500 jobs at the company's Airbus and Eurocopter divisions.

About 1,300 short-term contracts will not be renewed, and with voluntary measures, the company estimated final redundancies to come in at between 1,000 and 1,450 employees.

"The Group also intends to enter into negotiations with its works councils to seek agreements on labour cost reductions which could help mitigate the social impact of the restructuring plan," it added.

EADS has previously announced that it is changing its name the name of the group to Airbus to raise its public profile.

The overhauled defence and space division, to be called Airbus DS, will have a streamlined legal structure to cut costs and be up and running by January 1, the company said.

Shares in EADS rose 0.82 percent to 50.49 euros in Paris on the news.

 But a French union, the FO Metalworkers' Federation, reacted angrily to the announcement, protesting that EADS on the whole "is doing well financially and its order books are in good shape".

It said the group's focus on improving its profit margin should not come at the expense of its staff and urged the French state as a major shareholder to fight to protect jobs.

"FO calls on EADS to avoid layoffs and appeals to its sense of responsibility and solidarity so that no employee will be left behind," it said.

Enders has stressed that the company cannot continue with business as usual while government clients are increasingly resorting to cuts to the military to shore up strained public finances.

He has cited lost orders worth several billion euros (dollars) in Germany alone that the company had thought were certain.

In November, Germany's biggest union IG Metall held industrial action as a warning against the company's expected restructuring plans.

But the overhaul is seen by management as unavoidable after the failed plan to merge with BAE.

That was shelved after objections from Germany, which had worried it would trigger major job losses.

The success of the Airbus division came after a radical restructuring in 2007 in a plan that originally called for 10,000 job cuts, but in the end cost 7,900 jobs.

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TAXI

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis

Paris aims to give visitors to the 2024 Paris Olympics a flying start by offering airborne taxis to tournament sites straight from the airport.

Paris aims to beat Olympic traffic with flying taxis
An Airbus image showing what the taxis might look like. Photo: Airbus
Arrivals in the City of Light currently face an hour-long haul by train or bus into town from Charles de Gaulle airport to the north of Paris.
   
But if Aeroports de Paris (ADP), Airbus and the RATP regional transport have their way passengers, right after their jets have taxied to a halt on the runway, will be able to take to the air once again with a self-flying urban taxi of the future.
   
The firms used this past week's Paris Air Show to say the Olympics afforded the perfect opportunity to bring into service futuristic Vertical Take-off and Landing (VTOL) machines, and that they would launch a feasibility study.
   
“In 2010, for the first time, more than half of humanity was living in urban zones and we think we shall surpass 60 percent by 2030,” said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.
   
The time had now come to vault up to “the third dimension” of local commutes — air, he said.
 
“If we have the conviction that in the next five, 10, 15, 20 or 30 years low altitude is a space to be conquered we have to put in place the conditions today,” said ADP Group's executive director general Edward Arkwright.
   
VTOL converts are already sprouting in number as the world looks to move beyond — or rather, above — today's saturated motorways and growing environmental concerns.
   
Back on the ground, the view has been muddied by a delay beyond the Games, to 2025, of the express fast train designed to cut congestion and travel time between Charles de Gaulle airport and the city centre. 
   
For aircraft manufacturer Airbus, airport manager ADP and RATP, which manages Parisian public transport services, the Games are a chance to showcase French savoir-faire in urban mobility.
 
Multitude of projects
 
ADP has until the end of the year to choose a site for a “Vertiport” capable of hosting taxis from one of 10 aerodromes in the region around Paris.
   
The idea is to have the venue ready in 18 months, requiring infrastructure investment of some ten million euros ($11.3 million), says Arkwright. He adds the project will test out the link “via an existing helicopter corridor”.
   
Ideally, the service would see the taxis take off every six minutes.
   
In order to make VTOL a reality by 2024, ADP is working alongside Airbus, which has for some years been involved in full electric propulsion urban mobility schemes.
   
The manufacturer already has two prototype models — the single-seater “Vahana” and the four-seater variant “CityAirbus”.
   
Faury explained that “the two projects will converge towards a vehicle that will respond to first cases of use.”
   
“This partnership is a unique opportunity to develop technological solutions, a product, a regulatory framework, an economic model,” Faury added.
 
'Important stage'
 
“This project reduces constraints not only in terms of infrastructure but also concerning air traffic as it involves experimenting in a specific (air) corridor,” said Jean-Louis Rassineux, head of aeronautics and defence issues for Deloitte. “It is large scale rollout which is going to be complicated,” Rassineux told AFP.
   
Along with required progress on battery power and anti-collision detection he said there were “constraints regarding compatibility and traffic regulation.” 
   
But there is also the issue of the extent to which the concept will gain widespread public acceptance.
   
Rassineux warned there would need to be “security levels as stringent as those for air traffic” as well as “real value added to existing transport” systems.
   
Deloitte estimates the size of the airborne taxi market at some $17 billion for the United States alone through to 2040.
   
Yet “there remains some way to go before a flying vehicle becomes integrated into urban transport,” cautioned France's transport minister, Elisabeth Borne.
   
Borne nonetheless sees moves towards creating an embryonic service in time for the 2024 games as “one of the important stages” towards “the emergence of a complete transport offering” which would be “integrated and which respects the environment”.  
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